Welcome to our study for this week’s Torah portion, which is called Shelach Lecha (Send Forth).
Shelach Lecha (Send Forth)
· Numbers 13:1–15:41
· Joshua 2:1–24
· Romans 4:1–25
“Then YAHUVEH spoke to Moses saying, ‘Send out for yourself (shelach lecha) men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers' tribes, every one a leader among them.’” (Numbers 13:1–2)
Last week in Parasha Behaalotecha, YAH commanded Aaron to light the lamps of the Menorah, and the tribe of Levi was initiated into the service of the Sanctuary.
This week’s Parasha Scripture portion describes how YAH tests the Israelites by sending out 12 ‘meraglim’ (spies) to check out the situation in the Promised Land as YAH had commanded them before going in to take possession of it.
The Promised Land Is Bountiful
“‘Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.’ Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.” (Numbers 13:20)
YAHUVEH instructed Moses to send one chieftain from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to scout out the land of Canaan. Among the spies were Caleb, son of Yephunneh from the Tribe of Judah and Hosea (Hoshea), son of Nun from the Tribe of Ephraim. Later, Moses changed Hosea’s name to Joshua.
When Moses sent out the spies, it was the season of the first ripe grapes. They were to go in with courage and bring back a sample of the fruit of the Land. They were also to assess the characteristics of the inhabitants, the fortification of the cities, and the existence of any trees.
After 40 days, they returned with a cluster of grapes from the Valley of Eshkol (cluster), which was so bountiful that they had to tie the cluster to a pole and carry it on their shoulders. Here in Israel, the grapes will begin to ripen around mid-July in the heat of summer. So it is likely that the spies went into the Promised Land around the end of July.
The spies also brought back pomegranates and figs. These fruits grow in abundance today in the Land of Israel – a miracle since this land lay barren and lifeless for about 2,000 years.
The fact that the Land of Israel is fruitful again is evidence of YAHUVEH’s great mercy and grace, as well as His faithfulness to His covenant promises.
The Number 40
Why were the spies scouting the land of Canaan for 40 days? Why not 30 or 7?
The number 40 is significant in the Bible as it is the number of testing, preparation and leadership, as well as the harbinger of something new.
We see this pattern many times in the Scriptures:
· In a dramatic new beginning, rain fell for 40 days and nights during the Flood before the waters stopped and the world was repopulated. (Genesis 7:4)
· Moses lived in Egypt for 40 years, was prepared for leadership in Midian for 40 years, and finally led the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years as a new nation.
· Moses fasted on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights before he went down the mountain with the Ten Commandments.
“Moses was there with YAHUVEH forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28)
· Goliath challenged the Israelites twice a day for 40 days before David defeated him, which began a great following by the people. (1 Samuel 17:16)
· YAHUSHUA was tested by the devil in the wilderness for 40 days before He began His public ministry.
“Then YAHUSHUA was led up by the RUACH/SPIRIT into the wilderness to be trialed by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward HE was hungry. Now when the tempter came to HIM, he said, ‘If YOU are the SON of GOD, command that these stones become bread.’” (Matthew 4:1–3)
· The period from the resurrection of YAHUSHUA to HIS ascension was 40 days, a period of preparing the disciples for the work that lay ahead. (Acts 1:3)
10 Spies Inspire Fear Rather Than Faith
“There we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (Numbers 13:33)
After 40 days, all 12 spies essentially testified to the entire Israelite community and Moses that the land “does flow with milk and honey!” just as YAHUVEH had promised.(Numbers 13:27)
Despite that, they also saw that the cities were fortified and that giants lived in the Land.
Rather than focusing on the great fruitfulness of the Land, they focused, instead, on the great size of the inhabitants in contrast to their own smallness.
Caleb tried to counter their defeatist attitude by assuring the people, “We are well able to overcome with YAHUVEH’s help.” He urged them, “Let us go up at once and occupy it.” (Numbers 13:30)
The other 10 spies, however, instilled such fear in the people that the whole Israelite community began to cry and shout, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!” (Numbers 14:1–2)
In their apprehension, they forgot how YAHUVEH had sent ten plagues and even parted a sea for them, so they cried more: “Why is YAHUVEH bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. ... We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:3–4)
Of course, this is not the first time the people wanted to go back to Egypt.
In Parasha Beshalach, the people stood trapped between an advancing Egyptian army and the Red Sea. Terrified, they told Moses, “Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:12)
Then YAHUVEH parted the Red Sea and crushed the Egyptian army.
When they reached the other side of the sea in safety, they were already craving the food back in bondage:
“If only we had died by YAHUVEH's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." (Exodus 16:3)
Then YAHUVEH sent manna every morning for them to eat.
In Parasha Behaalotecha last week, we saw that they got tired of the manna and remembered the fish they “ate in Egypt at no cost — also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” (Numbers 11:5)
Then YAHUVEH sent quail, along with judgment for their continual complaining.
Throughout their wilderness journey, they complained to Moses and about Moses for many reasons. Each time, they witnessed YAHUVEH’s judgments and mercy. Yet, they still did not fully apprehend His love for them, nor His ability to keep His promise to give them a land of their own.
YAHUVEH said it best: “How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” (Numbers 14:11)
Moses Intercedes for the People
“I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (Numbers 14:12)
Because of their rebellion and unbelief during this test of faith, YAHUVEH threatened to destroy the entire community of Israel instantly and start all over again with Moses.
YAHUVEH gave Moses this same opportunity in Parasha Ki Tisa when the people He had just delivered from b